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by Michelle Rosenfeld — August 22, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

When Arlington real estate agent Kari Klaus decided to renovate her home to make it more energy efficient, she stumbled upon a problem.

Klaus, whose background is in sustainable development, realized that the traditional real estate property listing system doesn’t showcase or market environmentally friendly features for homes, making her house appear similar to others that aren’t energy efficient.

From working in the real estate business, she knew that home buyers care about how eco-friendly their future home will be.

“Wouldn’t you want to know if the home you are thinking of buying has superior systems, a tight building envelope (sealed to prevent air leaks) with solar panels and will save you potentially hundreds of dollars each and every month?” Klaus said.

But there was no understandable and reliable way to rank, search and view energy efficient homes, Klaus said.

That’s where VivaGreenHomes.com comes in.

VivaGreenHomes.com“VivaGreenHomes.com shows you that these options exist and explains their importance to you as a home buyer,” Klaus said. “If a home’s environmental or health value has not won you over, then the potential to save you a lot of money will.”

She said her company changes the game because other real estate listing services aggregate home listings without any verification procedures. VivaGreenHomes.com uses claim verification methods, including a “Home Energy Rating System” score, an industry standard for eco-friendly homes.

A beta version of the site launched in October 2014. Feedback received from industry leaders helped to shape the website before its full launch in May. Just two months after launching the full version, the website has nearly 4,500 active listings, Klaus said.

In the next six months, VivaGreenHomes.com plans to add more user tools, consumer information and other features. Amid those changes, Klaus hopes the number of listings on the site will reach 20,000 in the next year.

Arlington provides all the resources the company needs to continue to grow, she said.

“It’s been incredible to be around so many professionals that work in the sustainability and eco-homes industry,” Klaus said. “It has been a great resource for the company’s growth, including the recruitment of some of our newest team members who live in the D.C. area.”

VivaGreenHomes.com is currently affiliated with 1776 Crystal City, Mentor Capital Network’s Bethesda Green Cohort and Cleantech Open Southeast.

by Michelle Rosenfeld — August 15, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Cybersecurity breaches cost companies billions of dollars each year, and according to research from IBM Security, the vast majority involve human error. Security training is the best way to combat such errors, but getting employees excited about cybersecurity can be a challenge.

“Like a great many businesses, Ataata was born out of a simple question,” said Michael Madon, CEO of the Arlington company. “After sitting through another series of security awareness training courses for my job, I wondered, ‘Why does security training have to be so long and boring?'”

“I realized that security awareness training doesn’t have to be miserable,” Madon added.

ataataThe name Ataata is a Maori word meaning “video” — and that’s just what the company offers. Ataata’s interactive security awareness videos are available through a data-driven online and mobile platform. The videos work with computers, smart phones and tablets, meeting employees on whatever device they use.

All industries are vulnerable to human error, but Madon said Ataata “is the antidote to human error” because it gives employees incentive to care about cybersecurity.

“Through innovative approaches to increasing employee engagement, Ataata will set the standard for awareness training and dramatically reduce risks of cyber breaches caused by human error while significantly lowering training and clean-up costs,” Madon said. “We do this through employing an interactive, gamified and data-driven training platform offering our clients an analytic engine that transforms engagement data into actionable information — replacing guess work with deep understanding.”

Madon PhotoMadon added, “we believe to maximize engagement, the experience should be compelling, informative, participatory [and] applicable. To that end, Ataata creates and curates interactive videos to boost engagement.”

Ataata users have a 90 percent cybersecurity training completion rate versus 50 percent for traditional cybersecurity training videos, Madon said. In addition, Madon said users are three times as engaged in Ataata videos than traditional videos, with longer view times, increased interactions and more sharing.

Just six months after launching, Ataata announced in late June that it closed its series seed preferred founding round led by ARRA Capital with participation from additional investors. Moving forward, the company plans to use funds to drive ongoing creative and technology development and bring its “best-in-class” proprietary content and software to market.

And how did Ataata end up in Arlington? “Arlington chose me,” Madon said. 

Madon was a founding member of Crystal City-based 1776, a global incubator and seed fund. He was looking for a space outside the District with a more cyber focus, and Arlington was an obvious choice.

by Adrian Cruz — August 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Many companies across the U.S. have issues with worker morale and productivity. Clarendon-based E3 Solutions employs neuroscience to help companies solve those problems.

E3 CEO Don Rheem said he started his business six years ago to give human resources departments tools they can use through empirically validated science. While many companies have cutting-edge computers and software, few of them have HR processes that aren’t stuck in the 1990s, he said.

“Very little that’s done in the HR field is actually based on empirically validated research related to human behavior,” Rheem said.

The idea for E3 — which gets its name from the three E’s of envision, empower and engage — came when Rheem worked as a communications consultant. After 20 years in the communications industry, Rheem realized that while he was helping find better ways to communicate, the messages he conveyed remained ineffective.

He then took it upon himself to figure out ways to make workplace culture better and improve communication on a greater scale. Using science, Rheem was able to discover some of the main issues that affect workers.

Rheem learned that humans by nature are hard-wired to work as a group, creating a tribe. The workplace has evolved into a tribe, where adults spend most of their time with other adults, he said. As a result, the brain has specific requirements that lead to the optimal performance of the group.

“The brain expects to find certain conditions when it gets into the group and we now know what those conditions are,” Rheem said. “That’s what we help our clients see and understand, and then we help them to do the tactical things, the logistical things that they need to do in their company so that the brain feels those conditions that it wanted.”

For new clients, E3 begins with a 26-question online assessment that companies send out to all of their employees. After collecting the data, E3 can figure out how engaged the employees are, creating a profile that helps businesses determine what the issues are.

In the case of an electric company that had a morale issue, for example, E3 found that about a third of its employees were disengaged. After a year of working with the company, almost half of the disconnected workers became engaged.

“That’s the beauty of using science,” Rheem said. “Unlike these typical leadership approaches that are literally made up by the company or proprietor that’s doing it, we use science, and when you use science, it works every time.”

E3 also makes sure to apply what it sells to its own business.

Rheem said he chose to base his company in a MakeOffices location due to the social aspects that come with working in a shared office space. Unlike traditional workplaces with long hallways and individual offices where interaction might be limited, MakeOffices allows people to mingle with employees from other businesses, building connections and a sense of community in the workplace.

“We know we’re herd animals,” he said. “We know we’re hardwired to have safe and secure connections with others. What we’re essentially helping our clients do is creating those safe and secure connections inside the workplace. When you do that, people thrive by design. When you create those conditions, you don’t have to tell employees to become engaged, they become engaged organically.”

by Michelle Rosenfeld — August 1, 2016 at 12:45 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Growing up in Northern Virginia, Joe Smiley rode on food trucks with his church handing out warm meals to people in the community.

Craavings“I was always struck about how many people in my own community lacked basic necessities, including a warm meal each day,” Smiley said, adding, “These volunteering experiences were instrumental in planting a seed in my mind that there had to be a better way that I could help out using my technology background, as well as my experience consulting in the food and beverage sector.”

Combining his experiences, Smiley came up with the idea for Craavings — a no-cost online platform designed to help people find their favorite foods while providing meals to those in need.

Unlike restaurant rating platforms, Arlington-based Craavings enables users to quickly search and discover the best individual dishes available nearby by searching across all restaurants in an area or within a single restaurant. There are more than 30 million menu items in Craavings’ database, which covers the majority of the 1 million restaurants in the U.S. and parts of Canada, according to Smiley, founder and CEO of the company.

Users can save foods — or drinks — they try by completing ratings or reviews of menu items for future reference. In addition, a newsfeed feature focuses on social networking so that users can see what their friends and family like or dislike.

But the platform is about more than just finding your favorite foods. Users collect points through Craavings by signing up for an account, completing ratings and reviews, adding photos and marking favorite menu items.

“We’re making a pledge to provide a meal to someone in need — right here in the U.S. — every time you earn 15 points on this app,” Smiley said. “Find your craavings and help others who are in need. Win-win.” Craavings has pledged more than 750 meals so far, via volunteer work, food drives and donations, according to its website.

After launching a beta version of the website two months ago, Craavings already has thousands of registered users, Smiley said.

For now, he said the company’s primary focus is finding angel investors to aid in further development of the platform, as well as begin marketing in the D.C. and New York City metro areas. “We’re also looking for business partners and anyone who can help market Craavings in their cities and communities,” Smiley said.

In addition to improving the web interface and building out the mobile app, he said the company plans to add nutrition information, advanced filtering, loyalty management and new menu items and restaurants (including food trucks).

by Adrian Cruz — July 25, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Grant Leonard’s path to his own firm began after his boss fired him from a marketing associate job at a defense contractor.

Poor performance wasn’t his problem. Rather, ATA president Scott Berg thought Leonard had the talent to run his own business.

In 2015, his former boss and current mentor helped Leonard start The Grant Leonard Group, an Arlington-based startup that provides social media and marketing support to businesses in the D.C. area.

After joining his mentor at several business meetings with entrepreneurs and investors, Leonard realized startups were in need of an affordable way to maintain their social media presence.

grantleonard“We saw these two pretty familiar and consistent concerns about social media,” Leonard said. “There were a lot of startups that wanted to do social media, but they didn’t have the time or resources to do it themselves. You think of a startup founder, he’s busy building his business. He’s working 80-100 hours a week and the last thing on his mind usually is what he’s posting on Facebook.”

The other issue he found was that the price it would take for a startup to have a full-time social media presence would be difficult to include in the budget.

“These folks that wanted to do it, but couldn’t do it themselves, didn’t have the budget or the need to hire a full-time employee or an established marketing agency, where it can run a company in overhead anywhere from $3-5,000 a month and up from there,” he said. “So we said, ‘OK, there’s a need for a social media startup for startups.'”

The Grant Leonard Group charges a standard fee of $995 per month, providing customizable social media based on the needs of the each of its clients. The firm primarily focuses on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But it also can help companies with other social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, along with blogs and newsletters.

Leonard directly works with the businesses to develop a social media strategy, planning a month-by-month implementation strategy to ensure the effectiveness of their social media.

“At this point, an investment in the Grant Leonard Group is an investment in Grant Leonard where I’m doing 100 percent of the strategic execution, and then I execute it on a day-to-day basis,” Leonard said. “We always say, ‘If you want to go off to the Caribbean and just cut off completely from the world, rest assured that you know your social media platforms are taken care of and secure with us.'”

The Grant Leonard Group currently works with 17 businesses including MakeOffices, which provides co-working space in Clarendon to the firm.

“We’re not reinventing the social media wheel,” Leonard said. “The wheel’s there, it works. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel but what we need to reinvent and innovate is how people access that wheel, how people leverage that wheel. We’re offering a level of service that’s few and far between from what we’ve seen.”

by Michelle Rosenfeld — July 18, 2016 at 1:30 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Kam Desai and Ashish Gambhir know first-hand how hard it can be to engage employees.

Working at an analytics company, Desai and Gambhir found that while they could consistently and accurately collect customer feedback and supply it to their clients, negative scores tended to stagnate. For some reason, the necessary quality changes at the store level weren’t getting made.

“We realized that the issue was transparency,” Desai said. “Although restaurants had the right data, it was never getting to the right employees — the men and women on the front line responsible for making each sale. This stuck out as a huge opportunity to improve efficiency, and ultimately, customer service.”

MomentSnap logoDesai and Gambhir decided to develop their own software to fill the gaps.

“MomentSnap is unlike anything else in the marketplace,” Gambhir, co-founder and president, said. “The issue with a lot of engagement strategies surrounding performance is that they’re really not very ‘engaging’ — engagement has become just another box to check off by printing out satisfaction scores and sticking them on a wall somewhere.”

That’s where Arlington-based MomentSnap makes the difference. It puts that information directly in employees’ hands, empowering them to take ownership of their performance in a public forum and compete with their peers.

Using the software, employees accrue points for positive guest feedback and completed “missions” that are set by managers, which can range from upselling certain products to watching a video message from the leadership team. Employees then are ranked and recognized on a public leaderboard. A rewards structure also can be offered to employees, allowing them to use their points for prizes.

“MomentSnap spurs action and tangibly increases customer satisfaction — that’s real engagement,” Desai, co-founder and CEO, said.

Other employee engagement programs often are defined by transactions, rather than relationships, Desai said.

“Instead of seeing a percentage on a sheet of paper that correlates to guest satisfaction, we hope to emphasize that each customer interaction is unique — a moment, not a transaction,” he said. “We make snapshots of these moments available to employees in the form of comments and survey results — a moment snap.”

Gambhir said MomentSnap can be catered to any organization in any industry, but the company has started with a focus on the restaurant, hospitality and retail sectors. He said the company is currently tracking about 50,000 employees and seeing “incredible early success.”

So far, MomentSnap has seen a 10 to 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction among workers using the software, Gambhir said. “We’re seeing that employees are checking the app every shift, even though it’s optional — exceptional usage levels,” he added.

MomentSnap landed in Arlington after receiving an investment from CIT GAP Funds, a group of investment funds placing near-equity and equity investments in Virginia-based organizations.

by Adrian Cruz — July 11, 2016 at 2:15 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) While on the road as finance consultants and expectant parents, WellNest Home Cleaning founder and CEO Phil Harper and his wife tried to find a cleaning service to clean his home. The experience of finding one was such a negative one that it led him to start his own.

WellNest homepageWellNest is a Clarendon-based startup that makes arranging home cleaning a simple process while also providing quality and detailed service.

“WellNest Home Cleaning is a 100% digital eco-friendly health conscious cleaning service,” said Harper. “What that means is that you can do everything online from booking an appointment, getting a price, scheduling, rescheduling, secure payment, everything’s done online in an easy fashion from your phone or browser.”

With the couple working jobs that kept them away from home for significant periods of time, they had no time to keep the house clean. What he found when trying to choose a cleaning service was that the experience was overly time-consuming and difficult to arrange.

“We went shopping for a cleaning service, looked at reviews, selected some companies we liked, but the process was just very slow,” he said. “We kept having to call and make appointments or have in-home estimates and have to take off work. Whenever we wanted to reschedule, we had to play phone tag, leave voicemails, we kept on missing appointments.”

There was also the issue of payment — many traditional cleaning companies only took cash or check, with no credit card or online payment option.

While Harper found companies that did use the “Uber model” for home cleaning, he also found that the quality wasn’t to standard, something that he addressed when starting his own business.

Before the cleaner leaves the home, he or she uses a 60-point checklist to ensure that every detail on the list has been taken care of during the cleaning and they also leave a personalized note to reflect on the quality of service that the customer receives.

WellNest uses an online booking platform that makes it easy to arrange a home cleaning. The website gives customers an immediate quote depending on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms the house or apartment has, with a 1 bed, 1 bath apartment costing $70 for a single cleaning. Extras such as cleaning the interior of the refrigerator or oven are available for an additional fee.

It also gives the option to “subscribe” to a cleaning schedule, which reduces the price depending on how often per month the cleaning is scheduled. After that, the website then goes to a scheduling platform where the customer can choose the time and date they want their cleaning done.

In order to reduce costs that are passed on to the consumer and employees, WellNest uses a central storage facility for its cleaning materials and cleaners use Uber instead of company-owned or personal vehicles to reach their destinations.

“We solve a pain point with apartment complexes in Arlington because of the parking issues here,” he said. “Instead of having office space and vehicles or having to use our own personal vehicles, we actually use storage units and Uber to get around. The storage units are right in town. Our cleaners show up, get their cleaning supplies, call Uber, it picks them up, takes them to the home they’re cleaning; they go on up, clean the home, come back down, call Uber again, and go on to the next job.”

His experience as a father influenced his business in other ways. On his search to find a cleaning service, Harper wanted one that used cleaning products that were non-toxic and eco friendly. Knowing firsthand about the damaging effects that traditional cleaning products such as bleach have, WellNest uses mostly cleaning products that are non-toxic, made of water, vinegar and lemon oil. Traditional cleaning agents are reserved for only the toughest jobs.

“We spent several months trying various vendors of health-oriented cleaning supplies and what we landed on was a company called Eco-Me,” said Harper. “We found them through trial and error, tried it in our own home and loved it. We use them exclusively now.”

As of now, WellNest mainly operates in the Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church area, although Harper says that the company plans to expand into D.C, Reston, and deeper into Virginia. Its offices are based at the new MakeOffices Clarendon co-working space.

by Tim Regan — June 27, 2016 at 3:45 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A growing company in Arlington is set to get even bigger with a recent acquisition.

Snagajob, an Arlington-based tech company that helps employers find hourly workers and vice versa, announced last week it acquired PeopleMatter, an HR software business that aids employers in hiring, screening and managing employees.

The joint company now has “tools for candidate sourcing, screening, tracking, hiring, onboarding, training, scheduling and performance management,” according to a press release.

Peter Harrison, CEO of Snagajob, said the acquisition makes for a “very nice synergy” between the
two companies.Photo via Snagajob

“We [ensure] workers get the kind of jobs they want and employers get the kind of candidates they want, and then PeopleMatter has this platform for managing everything beyond that,” Harrison said. “There’s a great overlap.”

Harrison added that although Snagajob has about 200,000 and PeopleMatter has about 50,000 employer clients in the retail, hotel and restaurant segment, only a small number of the two company’s clients actually use both products. Thus, the acquisition presents a “great opportunity” for collaboration.

The company’s next project — and where it sees much potential for growth — is a new mobile scheduling app called Snagashift.

With Snagashift, Harrison said he envisions a future where hourly workers can not only find jobs with large employers but also manage and swap their shifts there.

“I think this is the really interesting opportunity that PeopleMatter will enable,” Harrison said. “In the near future we’re going to have the ability to, having gathered enough information about your work history, let you pick up shifts… even if it’s a completely different franchisee.”

And that seamless approach to scheduling could lead to big growth, Harrison said. “Think of it as sort of Snapchat for shifts,” he explained.

“We got 3 million people hired last year. If only 10 percent of those people managed the sharing across employers, our business would be ten times its current size,” he added. “That on its own is a giant avenue for growth for us.”

To accommodate its growth, the company recently filled a number of offices in the new MakeOffices Clarendon co-working space. As the company grows, Harrison said he expects to  add even more workers to the company’s offices in Arlington.

“We’re already up to about 80 people and I expect we’ll be well north of 100 by the end of the year,” Harrison said. “We’re taking new space that will scale to 250 or 300 people. This is going to be our hub.”

by Michelle Rosenfeld — June 20, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Like many college students, Andrew DeZarn became frustrated with the process of applying for internships that would be important to launching his career. But instead of continuing to send out hundreds of resumes, DeZarn took a different approach.

Vooru logo“It motivated me to create a technology-based compatibility platform that focused on connecting college students to internship positions based on characteristics and metrics that were much more relevant than university/program selection or even GPA,” DeZarn said. “Ultimately, this platform allowed companies to connect to students who they may not have considered otherwise.”

Little did DeZarn know, he had just taken his first step on the path to becoming a career head hunter.

In January, DeZarn co-founded Vooru, a Rosslyn-based professional recruitment and consulting services agency with a special focus on the finance and accounting domains.

“With technology platforms at our core, we specifically provide direct hire or ‘permanent’ staffing solutions to our growing portfolio,” DeZarn said.

With a network of more than 23,000 professionals, Vooru records and matches individuals’ skills, desired contract terms, cultural sensitivities, and other metrics to its clients’ open positions. Those include positions in business services, technology, not-for-profit, real estate and marketing organizations.

Vooru also offers career consultation to its network of professionals, including resume development and strategy, interview preparation, and career advisement.

“We ensure that the professionals we work with are in a position to put their best foot forward,” DeZarn said, adding that he and his business partner have “a combined 20 years of experience, so we definitely know how to help guide people to land that dream job.”

Unlike other staffing agencies, DeZarn said Vooru “relies on proprietary technology and data collection that results in instant connections between the professionals and companies we work with.” That process allows the firm to fill positions in a more timely and cost effective manner.

The name Vooru is derived from the Dutch word “vooruit,” which means forward or forward thinking. “My business partner and I are passionate about improving the way professionals can connect with some of the best companies out there and we ultimately hope to ignite advancement in the staffing industry, which has seen very little innovation in the past decade or so,” DeZarn said. “We are confident that our technology and forward thinking are the way do this.”

He said basing the business in Arlington also made sense with the firm’s forward-thinking character.

“Not only is Arlington easily accessible from almost all parts of the DC metro, but the highest concentration of companies and professionals we work with are within a 30 or so mile radius of our office,” DeZarn said. “Additionally, there is an exciting energy and buzz that can be felt in Arlington with all the commercial and residential development that is going on. Walking out of our office, you can walk in any direction and find a new restaurant, bar or entertainment attraction.”

He added, “It doesn’t hurt that Arlington is continually ranked atop multiple publication lists of ‘Best Places for Young Professionals’ in the entire country … we see so many of our peers and previous colleagues moving to the area as well, and it’s the perfect environment for any small business to incubate.”

by Michelle Rosenfeld — June 13, 2016 at 3:55 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Boolean GirlArlington-based startup Boolean Girl is on a mission — to fill the female deficit in the technology industry.

“The original idea was to teach kids (including my own) to code and work with electronics by creating a website with kid-friendly programming and engineering projects,” co-founder Brian Moran said. “This was not something they were learning in elementary and middle school and I think these are critical future job skills.”

When Moran started talking to other people about the idea, he heard from scores of women about the challenges they faced in the tech industry. “When I saw that the number of women in computer science was actually declining from 36 percent in the mid 1980s to 12 percent today, I knew it was time to pivot,” he said.

Boolean Girl launched on May 30, 2014 — around the same time that is was revealed that Google had issues with diversity in the workforce.

“Google’s admission brought a lot of attention to the issues we were trying to address. The timing was great,” Moran said, adding, “We were totally unknown but ahead of the curve on addressing this issue.

“By engaging girls at a young age, we could inspire the girls to pursue computer science and help dispel some misconceptions that middle schoolers have about computer science.”

Boolean GirlBoolean Girl offers camps, classes and classroom kits to get kids started. “We wanted to make this easy for the school/PTA so they have everything the girls need: computer, monitor, keyboard, battery etc. We don’t need to be in the school computer room, we don’t need internet access, we don’t even need electricity,” Moran said of the kits available through the program.

Moran said the program has also seen high demand for its classes and summer camps.

The program targets girls ages eight to 13, but Moran said it is open to older girls (and boys), as well. But the major advantage is to the girls.

“In elementary school, 66 percent of girls like science as much as boys do, but only 24 percent of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce is women and only 12 percent of the computer science graduates are women,” Moran said. “There are many reasons this happens: Girls think coding is not interesting, it does not require creativity, that you work in isolation, that coding is for boys only. Sometimes they are discouraged from taking classes by parents and teachers. When they do, they feel alienated or isolated because they are the only girl in a class.”

Boolean Girl flips this cycle by creating a welcoming environment for young girls, where they are working with their peers. “We want girls to know that computer science includes working side-by-side with their best friend all day. We want them to realize they can apply their creativity to solve difficult and important real-world problems through computer programming,” Moran said.

Ultimately, Moran hopes the program will drive more girls to develop a passion for technology, resulting in more women in computer science careers.

“Most studies show the demand for these skills is growing rapidly,” he said. “Aside from providing a stable income, we think computer science careers are interesting and exciting, offering unlimited possibilities for women.”

And Boolean Girl has big plans for the future. This summer, the program plans to develop two new advanced classes: one on engineering and another on Minecraft coding in Python, a coding language that Moran said is in high demand in the tech industry.

In addition, Boolean Girl will launch a Kickstarter campaign this summer to productize the classroom kits so that girls can take the same equipment home that they use in class.

“With the kit, the girls no longer need to borrow their parent’s computer … [and] can also do the online engineering projects,” Moran said. “Maybe most importantly, it is safe and easy: they don’t even need to be connected to the internet and everything is contained in the kit.”

Moran said the only factor limiting Boolean Girl’s growth is the availability of qualified instructors. “We try to recruit college women pursuing computer science or teaching degrees or young professionals with teaching or computer science backgrounds,” he said, adding, “Since the root issue is that the computer science field has so few women, finding instructors is always a challenge.”

by Michelle Rosenfeld — June 6, 2016 at 11:45 am 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Eastern Foundry ribbon cutting (courtesy photo)A new opportunity for burgeoning technology companies is coming to Arlington this fall.

Last week, Crystal City’s Eastern Foundry — a veteran-owned working space and accelerator for startup firms interested in working with the federal government — confirmed it will open a second location in Rosslyn, just 18 months after its inception.

The new space — a 19,237-square-foot office located at 1100 Wilson Blvd — is slated to open later this year, but some tenants want to move in sooner.

“We will be slowly filling in a few companies who are quite eager to get space even while the renovations are going on,” said Dan Bowman, a communications associate at Eastern Foundry. “We expect to be fully functioning by early fall once renovations are complete.”

Eastern Foundry originally planned to expand to the District, but inaction by D.C. officials and enthusiasm from Arlington economic development staff helped to convince the company to launch a second location in Arlington County instead, DC Inno reported last week.

The Rosslyn location is about 55% pre-committed and Eastern Foundry has formed “a bit of a waiting list,” Bowman said. Companies that have pre-committed to the new space include startups focused on mobile health care, mobile banking, laser diagnostics, cybersecurity and big data.

Eastern Foundry in RosslynEastern Foundry said the new space will allow the accelerator to double its membership.

“The 81 members in our Crystal City campus have validated our strategy, and this second location will allow us to expand into the hundreds, increasing the range of technologies, services and agency insights that our members can provide to the government and to each other,” Geoff Orazem, co-founder of Eastern Foundry, said in a release.

Bowman added, “Doubling in size not only increases the chance that our members can find powerful partners within our community, but it also serves as a larger resource for the government to tap into in order to find new and exciting solutions to their technology needs, gauge the contracting market or simply learn from agile startups.”

Rosslyn was chosen for the new location because of the area “is strategically positioned at the intersection of the civilian federal market in Foggy Bottom and the defense federal market near the Pentagon,” according to the release. “It is a direct shot to the original Crystal City campus, Tyson’s Corner and Reagan National Airport, and with the office being [near] the Metro, members can easily reach the entire national capital region all while enjoying Virginia’s business-friendly environment.”

Andrew Chang, co-founder of Eastern Foundry, said, “the expansion has been in the works for quite a while and is a crucial part to our overall growth strategy,” adding, “[W]e are very excited to continue to grow our brand and footprint in the DMV area.”

by Michelle Rosenfeld — May 30, 2016 at 12:00 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Sprout founder Rebecca CarpenterRebecca Carpenter had been cultivating organic vegetables on her Arlington patio for more than a decade before she considered turning her growing hobby into a career.

“In the past few years, I got my Master Gardener certification and I began helping friends and family with their gardens,” Carpenter said. “At some point, people started telling me that I should do this for a living, and at first I just chuckled at the idea, but eventually I allowed the idea to percolate and I decided there was merit to it.”

And so Carpenter founded Sprout, an Arlington startup that helps other Arlingtonians realize their dreams of the perfect backyard garden. But simple gardening isn’t the only purpose on Carpenter’s radar.

“As a business woman who also strives to serve a higher purpose with my life, it was important to me to structure Sprout as a benefit corporation,” Carpenter said. “This means that we’re a for-profit business with a mission to make a positive social impact. We have a triple bottom line — that means that we measure our success not just by profit, but [also] by our impact on people and planet as well.”

Sprout’s most popular offering is its backyard organic vegetable garden service.

“There are so many people who want to grow their own organic veggies and herbs, but they either don’t have the time or the know-how to do it themselves,” Carpenter said. This leads them to Sprout. “We build the beds, amend the soil, create a garden map, and sow the plants. We then come back once a month for six months to make sure the garden is thriving, and to transfer our knowledge to our clients.”

Each garden is custom-made, depending on the size, space and other factors. In addition, Carpenter said Sprout will work with clients to ensure that the services work within their budget. The company also offers coaching for people who want to do the labor themselves.

In fact, the company’s goal is to help customers feel comfortable growing their own produce, with the hope that they eventually become independent in their gardening endeavors, Carpenter said.

“We believe that the more people who grow and eat local organic produce, the healthier our community and the Earth will be,” she added.

Other services that Sprout offers include corporate services and cooking parties for individuals. And even more offerings are on the horizon.

“We’re testing several new revenue streams, which will help Sprout to grow beyond the DC area and to develop a national presence,” Carpenter said. “Our goal is to become the first national garden-to-kitchen consumer brand, so we’re actively and strategically pursuing options to make that happen,” including online education, mobile applications and products. “We’re very excited about the possibilities, and we’re looking forward to talking with potential partners and investors in the near future to help us scale the Sprout brand,” she added.

But as the company grows, Carpenter says it will continue to stay true to its roots.

“Arlington provides the perfect client base for Sprout — there is an intense clustering of people who understand the importance of healthy living, and they want to eat local/organic, but they don’t have a lot of space or time to grow their own organic food,” she said, adding, “This is our ideal audience, so we’ve found a wonderful base of clients here.

“I couldn’t imagine basing Sprout anywhere else, and I intend to keep Sprout headquartered in Arlington even as we grow to become a national brand.”

by Michelle Rosenfeld — May 23, 2016 at 11:10 am 0

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Doofl logoFinding himself “bored” with the options for charity fundraising, Ted Decareau’s interest was piqued by the viral Ice Bucket Challenge.

“I wanted to see if we could create a platform that would give any nonprofit the opportunity to reach those heights,” he said. And so Rosslyn-based Doofl was born.

The name Doofl is derived from “Do” (taking action) and “fl” (raffle). The no-cost mobile application – which launched in January – is open to anyone age 13 or older with a Facebook or Twitter account.

“With Doofl, you can create your own virtual fundraiser and have your friends or followers impact the video that you make with their votes and pledges,” Decareau said. “You get the app and pick three fun dares or challenges you’re willing to do, and then have your friends vote and pledge to make it happen. Completing the dare and posting the video acts as the trigger to convert all pledges to donations.”

Users can choose charities from a list of 7,500 verified organizations, or they can request that a specific charity be added to the list for their challenge. The list was generated from Guidestar and Charity Navigator and all donations are tax deductible.

“I thought it would be cool to turn ‘trivial’ social media content into something of value for non-profits,” Decareau said.

Doofl is also offering a limited-time promotion to match the first $100 pledge.

“We have a set number of matches that we allow each promotion and we will bring it back from time to time,” Decareau said.

Users also can win money for their preferred charity without making a video.

“Every month we’re going to give away a $1,000 to the charity of a randomly selected user,” Decareau said. “So just by installing the app and linking your Twitter or Facebook account, you’ll be eligible to ‘win’ the donation for your charity.”

Eventually, Doofl will enhance this monthly drawing by letting users “earn” more chances to win by voting, donating and sharing through the app.

“I think this ‘bonus donation’ drawing is a bit unique and it will be fun to give away extra donations,” Decareau said, adding, “Hopefully we can grow so we can do bonus donations weekly.”

Doofl also has plans to add a feature in coming weeks to generate a unique mobile web page for voting, pledging and donating outside of the app.

Decareau said he picked Rosslyn for Doofl’s home base because of the great co-working spaces – it’s based in MakeOffices – and the neighborhood’s convenient location.

by Michelle Rosenfeld — May 16, 2016 at 12:25 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

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From school permission slips to executing wills and closing on home purchases, notarizations are part of small and large decisions in everyone’s lives. But it can’t always be easy to find a notary when and where you need one.

Crystal City-based Notarize has an app for that.

At $25 a pop, users can obtain notarizations virtually anywhere, at any time.

In 2011, a law passed in Virginia enabled certain certified state notaries to complete notarizations through a video call. Notarizations made in Virginia are valid across state lines under state and federal laws.

Notarize screenshotWith nearly 1.25 billion notarizations taking place in the U.S. annually, the founders of Notarize saw a real “pain point” that could be addressed using technology and the new Virginia law.

“My partner was traveling when he realized an important financial transaction that required notarization wasn’t executed properly and he couldn’t find a notary to fix it,” Adam Pase, co-founder and COO of Notarize, said. “It delayed the transaction for weeks.”

The founders of Notarize jumped on the idea of virtual notarization, getting ahead of the curve.

“Notarization may not be the sexiest area to focus on, so I don’t think a lot of people were directing a lot of attention to the notarization process,” Pase said.

The company’s work paid off – more than 1,000 documents were notarized through the mobile app in the first six weeks after it launched.

Notarize co-founder Adam PasePase said Notarize aims to keep users’ wait times to less than three minutes.

Right now, 40 notaries are working with the company, but Pase said Notarize has received more than 100 additional applications.

“News has spread and we’re really excited to have so many notaries interested in our platform,” Pase said.

And Notarize isn’t just for individual consumers. Businesses stand to gain a lot from the virtual notary service, according to Pase.

Notarize co-founder Pat KinselBusinesses – such as mortgage companies, banks, legal firms, construction companies and more – can use Notarize to streamline their operations, onboard customers and create a completely digital audit trail. So far, Pase said the company has received “tremendous interest” from businesses.

Pase said the company was drawn to Crystal City because of the proximity to D.C. and many of the key decision makers and customers it was targeting.

“Northern Virginia has become a hotbed for technology companies and Crystal City has some exciting momentum in the startup tech world,” Pase said. In this area, he added, Notarize was “confident we could get the talent we need.”

Notarize currently is available as an iOS application for Apple devices, as well as a desktop application. Pase said the company has plans to make the service even more accessible in the future.

by Michelle Rosenfeld — May 9, 2016 at 2:00 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Swoon For screenshotWhen Arlington resident Hillary Leo left her nine-to-five job last March, inspiration struck.

Inspired by a travel blog she had been writing, Leo launched a new online store called Swoon For. The store incorporates her expertise from both her time as a New York City fashion editor and as a photo editor National Geographic Society.

“The biggest inspiration for the store has been my travels, experience as a fashion editor, as well as working as a photo editor for the National Geographic Society,” Leo said. “The store really is a culmination of my professional journey and personal travel adventures. I have an insatiable appetite for travel and when you combine that with my passion for design and style you have Swoon For as the result.”

Swoon For focuses on products that trigger conversations and evoke a sense of adventure.

“Each items has to offer a style that speaks to something you would purchase while traveling to a far off place,” Leo said. “The items that are from various countries in our boutique really speak to the crafts that are highly valued there. For example, our handmade baskets from Rwanda, handwoven palm bags from Bali, silk sari necklaces from India, Moroccan rugs and blankets just to name a few.”

Leo aims to help artisans all over the world continue their traditions while sharing those traditions with the people of Arlington and the rest of the United States.

“One designer I work with for example has started her own small business in Jaipur, India,” Leo said. “The items she designs are made in partnership ikat fabric makers and hand-block printing artisans whom she has worked with personally for years.

“So not only are we helping her, but also aiming to help keep the arts of (and jobs of) ikat making and hand-block printing in the hands of the artists and not the machines that are able to replicate and mass produce these special items.”

Leo, who lives in Arlington’s Old Glebe neighborhood, said her personal touch also sets Swoon For’s swag apart.

“The collections are curated by me personally and are representative of my taste when it comes to fashion, home décor, jewelry and children’s goods,” Leo said. “The merchandise is international inspiration for the home and closet where.”

In addition, Leo said the online store offers a chance to give back. The majority of Swoon For’s items are sold in partnership with not-for-profit organizations or are ordered directly from artisans.

“I believe we are seeing a steady shift in shoppers’ philanthropic interests,” said said, adding,”And while there are other stores offering this, I feel that many of the items I have found are not available elsewhere.”

But Leo doesn’t plan to just exist in cyberspace.

“The dream has always been to open a brick and mortar store, but financially I’m not there yet and feel that by launching the store online it is a way to get my feet wet and learn many of the lessons necessary to run a successful retail business while gaining a loyal customer following,” she said.

For now, Leo said her next step is to hire summer interns focused on communications and design.

And she will never forget her store’s roots in the blog world.

“I regularly update the blog, which can be accessed from the store, and will be including interviews with our artisans, more about my inspiration and trips to find merchandise around the globe.”

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